Musical with message back on stage

By Latoya Newman Time of article published Sep 18, 2012

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AFTER a six-year absence from the stage, Bonkinkosi Shangase’s hit musical Maluju Zulu returned last week, with a cause.

Not only did some schools and the public get to enjoy a four-day run of the piece at the Stable Theatre last week, but the staging also marked the beginning of the musical’s tour of the province’s rural areas to promote non-violence in communities, and oppose faction fighting in particular.

Maluju Zulu traces faction fighting between clans from when the British demarcated tribal land between the clans, which led to tension between the tribes as some felt the land was unfairly distributed.

In the story a maiden and a young warrior, both from warring clans, fall in love. But their union is forbidden and the young man is killed by the girl’s tribe.

This sparks what seems to be a never ending war between the two clans as each generation vows to avenge the wrongs against previous generations in their clan.

But can the voices of reason – the dead youngster’s brother and an elderly woman who’s witnessed too much violence among the clans – be heard over the thunderous roar of those calling for vengeance?

Maluju Zulu accurately depicts the cultures involved. It was also refreshing to see the director (Shangase) opted not to water it down with too much English. In my opinion a production like this, which is so heavy on aspects of culture and tradition, is best delivered in the mother tongue which carries a unique energy when portraying a story.

That most of the play is in Zulu did not leave those not speaking the language lost, for two reasons. One, Shangase has included a narrator who occasionally plays the link between scenes when he comments on what has just taken place, in a way that (if you were lost) enables you to easily fill in the blanks. And two, the plot unfolds so clearly that it is easy to follow.

The cast’s precision and passion in a cappella song and traditional dance was a treat to watch. Right through their performance they had the crowd going. Some in the audience sat on the edge of their seats during the fight and dance scenes, and most of the time these portrayals drew applause and cheers from the crowd.

The message of the musical is a simple one: choose dialogue over faction fighting as it often leads to an increased number of widows and orphans in communities, and therefore hinders development.

Maluju Zulu, with the support of a host of sponsors, including the provincial police service, will tour the region promoting this message.

Colonel Vincent Mdunge, SAPS provincial spokesman, was also blown away after watching Friday night’s performance.

He said: “We will go full out to support this initiative. We are of the view that it will help police to reach our priority mandate of creating a safe environment for all citizens. We are of the view that it will help educate people about faction fighting.”

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